Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Mix 2015

Christmas Mix
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If it is a question of hope, love is the answer.
If it is a question of fear, love is the answer.

I was going to rattle off about ten, I will stop at two, you get the point. But, go ahead do a couple on your own...

Some may say, way too simplistic, a Christmas time answer. Maybe I'm just a simple guy, but Christmas presents us the essential question, How do we make peace on earth, goodwill to men? The answer is a process of love for us all. For me, it did not come from my Christian upbringing, it came from the eclectic experiences in this world and learning that it would be up to me to create my own acts of goodwill.

Christmas is a time to reflect. No matter your religion, non religion or spirituality, think of Christmas in America as the space in time where love becomes less confined. It provides an opening, to give beyond ourselves, to help people. Hopefully, our thoughts and actions of goodwill go beyond the Christmas bubble and we make a positive difference in the lives we touch, throughout the year. Music helps too. It provides a wonderful conduit to the process of understanding that leads to peace.

I want to end this year's Monday Monday Music blog with mostly an acoustic spirit of traditional and non traditional Christmas time music. Merry Christmas to all.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Paul Hobbs and the carousel of time

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

I grew up with Paul Hobbs in Santa Maria, California in the 1960's and 70's. We both lived on the west side of town and although we were only 5 blocks from each other (Alvin Ave. to Sunset), we didn't know each other until several years later. Back in the early 60's, each block had enough baby-booming children so that kids needn't venture too far to have a flock of friends.

Our neighborhood school was Robert Bruce Elementary. Paul was one year older than me and that may have been the chasm great enough to prevent an early meeting. That would change with the city Junior Olympics and a first face to face at the standing broad jump. We both remember that first encounter as our starting point, but it would be a few more years until we circled back.

By the mid-sixties, both of our families moved from the west side to the east side of town. My family moved to Tunnell St. and my next door neighbor and new friend was Ron Zieman. Ron and Paul's families went to the Methodist church and being in the same 8th grade class, they were close. When I entered junior high, the actual beginning of The Wonder Years, 1968-73, I was reintroduced to Paul, through Ron. We all became fast friends with the common bond of rock 'n' roll and riding our bikes everywhere. Paul's move, put him close to the Santa Maria Riverbed where we did things like act out our own imaginary movie scenes. We also explored much of the central coast with all our buddies through high school- Ron, Gary Hill, Steve Spencer, Jeff McCarthy and Ken Forman). Now, as life brings Paul and I together again on a more frequent basis, a lifetime of friendship is still played out in walks in that same riverbed, the conversation always engaging.

Paul is amazing on many levels. For me, he has always been a musician and I mean a real musician at a time when most of us were trying not to stab ourselves with the sharp metal protractor tool in geometry class. Sure he was learning his craft but man, listening to him play acoustic guitar in a small room was the biggest musical influence in my life. These were the wonder years of music, with many hours spent in Paul's or Ron's bedrooms listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield, Cream, James Taylor, Neil Young, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell and on and on. But Paul really listened. He practiced and played and sang many of these artists' songs, with his sound. I thought it was wonderful and felt lucky to be around him.

Paul, like many of his musical heroes evolved into a singer-songwriter himself. He is a very social person with many dear friends. He was raised in a loving family and ran with that to also become a great husband, father and now grandpa too. All ride the carousel of time with him. In his music, I hear themes of love and sometimes the separation of that love that goes out into the world or, from this world. These songs can also express the universal hope that love does come back around at some space in time.

I was in Santa Maria for Thanksgiving this year and had a chance to talk with one of Paul's life-long friends starting from the west side days, Paul Tognazzini. We all met as Paul and Jane Hobbs usually invite a large herd of family and friends (party of 10 this time) to Sunday breakfast. Paul Tog has gone through quite a battle with leukemia and I'm happy to say is still seizing the day and getting stronger every day. Anyway, I had a great breakfast conversation with Paul Tog and we talked about mutual childhood friends from the old blocks - Freddie Board, Philip and Gary Cooper, Albert Lopez to name just a few, and Paul Tog's little sister, Susie, who I had a crush on in the first grade.

I would be remiss not to mention the great friends that Paul H. has integrated with my circle that continues to this day with Ken and Vicki Forman. And even though I haven't seen these guys in a while but see them through Facebook or in talks with Paul- Jeff McCarty and Steve Spencer will always be friends, thanks to Paul. Paul loves his friends and his friends love him back. Oh, and that nefarious character Ron Zieman is still around too! (I'll probably get double pay-backs on that last comment.)

Recently, I've had the pleasure of helping Paul create a YouTube Channel for his music. He hasn't uploaded all his recordings, but has a good start that I hope will continue. Here, I've put together a YouTube playlist for your listening pleasure from his channel and hope you will share this with your friends, old and new.

and, Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year from John, Paul, George and Ringo

Monday, October 19, 2015

Wichita Lineman

This past week I watched the documentary, Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me and it got me to thinking about my father who past away in 2014. My dad worked for the General Telephone Company and started his career as a Lineman in Santa Maria, California. In 1968, Glen Campbell released the Jimmy Webb song, Wichita Lineman and it has always made me think of my dad, kind of like his theme song. I've included the song in My 100 Songs YouTube playlist below as it continues to grow. So this one's for you dad.

This is a quick blog this week and my last on a weekly basis for a while. I need to focus on building my educational consulting business as things are starting to take off for me. I hope to continue to post Monday Monday Music blogs on a sporadic basis and hope you enjoyed the ones I have written so far. I'll keep adding songs to my list here and should be a pretty good mix of music to enjoy. Let's all just keep listening to all kinds of music as much as possible. Our minds are meant to be fed rhythm as it nourishes the soul and keeps us young. Take care my friends.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Heartbreak and Old Flames, The Cass County Tour

Don Henley and his Cass County Tour arrived at the Los Angeles Forum last Friday night. I told Mary Kit before we got the tickets, "I don't want you to be disappointed with this show because we might be listening to cowboy music all night." MK is more of an All She Wants To Do Is Dance  kind of gal, but we are both huge Eagles and Don Henley solo career fans and jumped at the chance to see him. Without getting too involved here, let's just say Don has that special gift as a songwriter to make you feel that his words are your life. MK and I are obviously not unique in this feeling as this has been a key to his success. As for us, no other musician has tapped into that personal well of emotion more than Don Henley.
And speaking of relationships, Henley had the magic to add Shawn Colvin as his opening act on this tour. She is one of my favorite artists and I will reserve a future blog to just focus on her music. I recommend you go buy her new album, Uncovered. It is her second cover from another wonderful group of songwriters. Shawn setup this concert evening perfectly when she said that she basically writes, "breakup songs" and said, she loves the line by Trisha Yearwood that "sad songs make me so happy."

With that, we tap into the musical mind of Don Henley and his genius to entertain a full house at the Fabulous Forum with a crafted mix of his solo career, theme-selected covers and new songs. The new album pays country homage to his youth in Linden, Texas listening to music on the radio at home and in the car with his dad. The concert starts with about 30 old radios of various shapes and sizes hung from the ceiling with a spot light. The spot-lighted radios are synchronized moving quickly from one radio to the next with audio of an old radio dial changing stations, playing classic radio sound bites from the 40's to the early 70's.

Cass County has debuted at Number 1 on the Country charts and as Henley described during the concert, this is nothing short of "a miracle." But, as a (not in a box) rock legend, Mr. Henley knows a thing or two about making hits. He brings in a line up of home run hitters including, Mick Jagger, Miranda Lambert, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Alison Krauss, Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, Lucinda Williams and Stevie Nicks. If you're like me, you'd buy the album on the harmony vocals alone!

Here is the Set List of the Cass County Tour. Explore my Radio, Don Henley and the Cass County Tour YouTube Playlist below with most of the 2015 tour set list order. I was able to video corral the Cass County songs from the album (except the bonus track of the Jackson Browne song, Here Comes Those Tears Again. I will add that to this playlist when it comes to YouTube). I've also ended the playlist with a couple of recent interviews that I think you will enjoy.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Ringo's All-Starr Party

Last Friday, Mary Kit and I along with our good friends Ken and Vicki Forman and Paul and Jane Hobbs saw Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band at the Vina Robles Amphitheater in Paso Robles. MK scored the best seats she and I have ever had at a concert, second row, middle of the stage. I couldn't believe this gift when Ringo and the band came out. I was standing dead center 10 yards from a Beatle looking right at me, singing Matchbox. This was bucketlist fun and quickly realized it was going to be the best music party I'd ever experienced, surrounded by a bunch of like-minded boomers rocking out! All the pictures here were taken from my cell phone and I have to say, Ringo was so gracious and even leaned into many pictures being taken by people close to the stage. This was his party and he was going to make everyone feel the love.

If you have time, look at the first link above as it lists all the All-Starr Band lineups Ringo has put together since the first group of super musicians in 1989.  The current list of band members have been together since 2012 and include:
If you are unfamiliar with the band's format, Ringo sings about a third of the time throughout the show and lets his other rock star mates play their hits. Here is the Setlist with live YouTube video clips of the songs from the band's various tour shows that you will enjoy watching.

I knew Todd Rundgren was in the band and was very excited to see him for the first time live. Todd is one of the great rock 'n' rock characters and was a fun showman playing his hits from the
70's and running all over the stage much of the night.

I was totally surprised that we were also going to a mini Santana concert with Gregg Rolie who was the lead singer and organ player in Santana. Rolie's voice and organ playing was fantastic.

I was equally taken by Richard Page who was the lead vocalist for Mr. Mister. Page is an excellent singer along with his strong bass playing. I loved his bass on Todd's song,  Bang on the Drum All Day. I have to admit I was never a Toto fan but enjoyed Steve Lukather's lead guitar on all the band's songs including his Toto songs that greatly amped up the whole party atmosphere. And yes, I was actually dancing and singing along to Toto songs, it was that fun with everyone having a blast.

Ringo really knows what he is doing here. All of these musicians are great pros and you already know he has a knack for surrounding himself with talent. Ringo is forever a Beatle, keeping time and being timeless. At 75 he is in great shape, relaxed, happy and loved by everyone. Mr. Peace and Love is a class act and knows how to send everybody home with a huge smile on their face.
We love you Ringo!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Keith Richards Under the Influence

Crosseyed Heart.pngKeith Richards is many things to many different people. The public mainly knows him for the legendary reputation of being the 'bad boy' mumbling substance abuser that inspired Johnny Depp's pirate. But if you know a bit about rock 'n' roll, you know that he is simply the best band leader of the genre. Like Count Basie as a supreme band leader, Richards crafted a rhythm of sound in the Rolling Stones that is unmatched in creativity and longevity. The best beat in rock 'n' roll is the Rolling Stones and Keith is the instrument through which Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry flow together.

Last night, I watched the new documentary film by Morgan Neville, Keith Richards Under the Influence on Netflix. Mr. Neville uses the backdrop of the the making of Keith Richards' new album, Crosseyed Heart (available @ Amazon) with photographs and video of Richards' live and musical influences, starting with his mother and grandfather. Keith talks about the meeting on the train, where Mick Jagger and Keith reconnect as former classmates with Mick carrying a Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry album under his arm. That story and many others make Neville's film a must see that you will enjoy. In a recent blog, I featured another Neville film, 20 Feet from Stardom. My favorite part of that film is Merry Clayton's experience who was brought into a midnight recording session to sing on Gimme Shelter in 1969. Gimme Shelter is one of the best rock 'n' songs ever where many musical elements all came together. Keith is rarely the front man, but always the architect. In Under the Influence, you'll see how he teams with Steve Jordan his drummer and collaborator to build the rhythm from the ground up. In the film, you will also see how Keith and Stones' drummer Charlie Watts create the structure for Street Fighting Man. I love this stuff, hope you like my playlist of somethings old and new this week.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mark Knopfler

Tracker Cover.jpgTonight, I see Mark Knopfler at Humphreys in San Diego with my good friend Mark Hunter. Humphreys is an outdoor venue by the San Diego Bay and famous for the free-loading kayackers who paddle up in the marina to take in the concert. It's wonderful to see a show there in the summer months because it's very comfortable at night with shorts and t-shirts and the comedians and musicians seem to love the place. The only drag are the small plastic chairs all tied together and the people are literally packed in like sardines on a flat surface. When you sit down, you pray for under 6 foot people in front of you, and no more that a 36 inch waist size next to you. I've been there enough to have both tall and wide and shorter and lean or combinations of both. When you get shorter and lean, you think the concert gods have blessed you for the evening. Maybe the kayackers are on to something...

Anyway, Mr. Knopfler is most famous for being the front man of the British band Dire Straits which by the way is one of the best rock band names ever. Beyond the name and the band's string of hits in the late 70's and 80's, Mark Knopfler is simply one of the best guitarists on the planet. His finger picking style made him famous with his first monster hit Sultan's of Swing  (and with the distinction of being overplayed so much, it made my blog - GREAT Songs Ruined by Radio). However, most know him for the even bigger hit, Money for Nothing which propelled both the band and MTV's popularity in the 80's.

As usual, I have put together a playlist of YouTube video cuts that you may not be as familiar with including songs on Knopfler's current 2015 album, Tracker (available @ Amazon). Mark is also famous for being such a great collaborator with musicians such as Chet Akins and Emmy Lou Harris and I've included several in this playlist. He has also produced Bob Dylan and Randy Newman, has 9 soundtrack albums and 8 solo albums. Enjoy the prolific and gifted Mark Knopfler as I will live tonight!

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Backups Come to the Front of the Rock 'N' Roll Class

As Paul Harvey used to say, "and now for the rest of the story." Here are four documentary films about the business of rock 'n' roll and the backup session players and singers who helped craft the hits we know and love. I recommend you watch all four and you'll better appreciate the people who helped create the arrangements, melody, beat and harmony for many classic recordings without getting much credit for the quality of their work.

The Wrecking Crew - The Wrecking Crew was a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960s who played on hits for the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Jan & Dean, The Monkees, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Mamas and Papas, Tijuana Brass, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers and were Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. The amount of work that they were involved in was tremendous. Watch on Netflix

Standing in the Shadows of MOTOWN -
In 1959, Berry Gordy gathered the best musicians from Detroit's thriving jazz and blues scene to begin cutting songs for his new record company. Over a fourteen year period, they were the heartbeat on "My Girl," "Bernadette," I Was Made to Love Her," and every other hit from Motown's Detroit era. By the end of their phenomenal run, this unheralded group of musicians had played on more number ones hits than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis and the Beatles combined. They called themselves the Funk Brothers.
Currently, this documentary only appears available to rent on Amazon for $2.99 here

Muscle Shoals - Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama has helped create some of the most important and resonant songs of all time. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Rick Hall brought black and white together to create music for the generations. He is responsible for creating the “Muscle Shoals sound” and The Swampers, the house band at FAME Studios that eventually left to start its own successful studio known as Muscle Shoals Sound. Watch on Netflix

20 Feet From Stardom - Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In his compelling new film TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others. Watch on Netflix